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Wartime FM calls for tangible measures to counter Geneva threat



‘How come those who voted for Fonseka still push for an int’l war crime probe?’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Wartime Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama (2007-2010) yesterday (17) said that those who had been tainted by their association with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) were seeking the cooperation of external and internal elements to undermine the democratically elected government.

The former minister alleged that a coordinated campaign was underway ahead of the scheduled 46th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).

Bogollagama said that the recent high profile intervention made by the four-party Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Tamil National People’s Front (TNPF) and Tamil Makkal Tesiya Kootani (TMTK) backed by several civil society groups for international accountability mechanisms to probe Sri Lanka should be properly countered.

R. Sampanthan (TNA), Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam (TNPF) and retired Supreme Court Justice C.V. Wigneswaran (TMTK) and eight other parties, including the Bishop of Trincomalee signed a petition dated January 15, 2021 addressed to 47-member states of the UNHRC called for a new resolution with or without Sri Lanka’s consent. They requested UNHRC members to involve other organs of the UN including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly to take appropriate action by reference to the International Criminal Court and any other applicable and effective international accountability mechanisms to inquire into the crime of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Having failed to achieve Eelam through terrorism and conventional military means, those who still believed in the division of the country on ethnic lines were seeking international intervention, the former Minister said, urging those hell-bent on foreign intervention not to play politics with accountability issue.

Sri Lanka brought the war to a successful conclusion in May 2009. Responding to another query, the former minister said that the TNA had quite conveniently forgotten how the LTTE forced the political grouping to recognize Velupillai Prabhakaran as the sole representative of the Tamil people. The LTTE exploited that tag to the hilt until the Army put a bullet through the head of the Tiger supremo on the banks of the Nanthikadal lagoon, Bogollagama said. The former Minister emphasized the pivotal importance of Sri Lanka taking stock of the situation without further delay because a new resolution seemed inevitable.

Bogollagama said that Lord Naseby’s disclosure in Oct 2017 in the House of Lords could be part of Sri Lanka’s overall defence along with certain revelations made by Wikileaks since 2011. Continuing efforts to fault Sri Lanka over genocide of Tamil people should be dealt with for once and for all, the minister said, pointing out that both TNPF and TMTK reiterated genocide allegations at the onset of the current parliamentary sessions.

Bogollagama also made reference to wartime US Defence Attaché in Colombo Lt. Col. Lawrence Smith contradicting in public during an international seminar in Colombo war crimes accusations, two years after the conclusion of the war.

The former minister said that Tamil parties’ rhetoric shouldn’t be taken lightly. Asked whether he endorsed the efforts made by the SLPP to counter the threat, the ex-lawmaker said that the joint intervention made by the British-French governments in late April 2009 to halt the military offensive against the LTTE on the Vanni east front indicated the level of Western interest in the issue at hand. “I don’t have to remind you what the then British Foreign Secretary David Miliband’s comment on his government’s obsession with the war against the LTTE,” the former MP said, referring to a leaked classified US diplomatic cable originating from their mission in London at the height of the war here.

The former minister said that for the first time one-time LTTE mouthpiece, the TNA had the backing of two more political parties based in the North. Bogollagama pointed out though Wigneswaran quit the TNA in spite of having entered active politics through the outfit in 2013, the one-time Northern Province Chief Minister was working with the TNA and Gajandrakumar Ponnambalam’s TNPF on a common agenda. Geneva was going to be a big challenge, Bogollagama said, adding Western powers’ real interests and motives were wider issues than accountability in Sri Lanka.

Bogollagama said that the TNA owed an explanation as regards its relationship with the LTTE?. Having recognized Prabhakaran in late 2001 as the sole representative of Tamil people, the TNA, on behalf of the LTTE ordered Tamils to boycott the 2005 presidential election, Bogollagama said. The TNA represented the LTTE’s interests until the very end, Bogollagama said, recollecting how the European Union in the aftermath of 2004 parliamentary election faulted the TNA for winning 22 seats in the Northern and Eastern Provinces with the LTTE stuffing ballot boxes on its behalf.

Bogollagama said war crimes accusations collapsed five years before the previous yahapalana administration co-sponsored an accountability resolution in Geneva. How could the TNA explain backing war winning Army Chief Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s candidature at the 2010 presidential poll and the Northern and Eastern districts, including Digamadulla voting for him overwhelmingly though he lost the election by a staggering 1.8 mn votes. The TNA should have been challenged both in and outside parliament for its stand on unsubstantiated war crimes allegations, having backed the very man who executed the war.

Bogollagama pointed out how high profile accusations made by the then Northern Province  Chief  Minister Wigneswaran as regards poisoning of LTTE cadres undergoing rehabilitation (Aug 2016) and the Army being responsible for Mannar mass graves (2019) proved nothing but propaganda.

Bogollagama insisted that all evidence should be placed on the table, studied vis-a-vis 2015 Geneva resolution  co-sponsored by the then government and remedial measures taken.  It would be pertinent to mention that the government went ahead with co-sponsorship in spite of the then Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva Ambassador Ravinatha Aryasinha rejecting the draft proposal, the former Foreign Minister said.

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NHSL narcotics mafia: DG points finger at SLFP union, blames govt. for inaction



By Shamindra Ferdinando

Deputy Director of the National Hospital, Dr. Rukshan Bellana, who had to be rescued by the police recently as an unruly minor staff laid siege to his office and threatened to cause him bodily harm, yesterday (03) alleged that he was under threat subsequent to the exposure of what he called a narcotics mafia operating in government Hospitals.

In a brief interview with The Island the beleaguered President of the Government Medical Officers’ Forum (GMOF) found fault with the government for its lethargic response to threats emanating from a trade union affiliated to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).

Responding to queries, Dr. Bellana alleged that a section of the minor staff was trying to force him out of the National Hospital at the behest of trade union leader Roy de Mel. “Contrary to reports and claims, I’m still here,” Dr. Bellana said, warning the government of dire consequences unless action was taken to discipline National Hospital staff.

Dr. Bellana emphasized that the SLFP trade union, under any circumstances, couldn’t be allowed to dictate terms to the health administration. The outspoken official said that the situation was so bad the National Hospital seemed to be in the hands of ruffians in the garb of trade unionists.

The Island raised Dr. Bellana’s accusations with the SLFP trade union leader De Mel who strongly defended their response to what he described as a wholly unnecessary issue caused by the Deputy Director.

There could be some drug addicts as well as drug pushers among the minor staff of the National Hospital, De Mel said, while referring to the recent reportage of the arrest of a minor female employee carrying heroin with a street value of Rs. 250,000 by the Katunayake police. However, Dr. Bellana for some reason only known to him had repeatedly slandered the entire minor staff, de Mel claimed, challenging the Deputy Director to prove his accusations.

Both Dr. Bellana and De Mel accused the Health Ministry of failing to address the issues at hand. Dr. Bellana said that for want of clear instructions from the Health Ministry, the SLFP union was trying to terrorize him. The official demanded that the ministry initiate a no holds barred investigation into the conduct of the SLFP union.

De Mel said that the Health Ministry owed an explanation as to how Dr. Bellana repeatedly exploited mainstream and social media to propagate his accusations whereas other doctors faced disciplinary measures. Reference was made to cases involving doctors at Kataragama and Karapitiya hospitals.

The trade union leader said that it wouldn’t be fair to declare the entire minor staff of the National Hospital drug addicts on the basis of a few cases or unsubstantiated allegations. De Mel pointed out that there had been cases of security forces and police personnel, including an SSP being arrested with narcotics. But such arrests didn’t justify calling the services and police drug addicts, de Mel said, urging the Health Ministry and law enforcement authorities to investigate Dr. Bellana’s accusations.

“We are ready to face investigations, at any level,” De Mel said, claiming that actually he took up the alleged drug issue among minor staff before Dr. Bellana went public with it. De Mel claimed that he appealed not only to minor staff at the National Hospital but other health sector institutions as well.

Dr. Bellana said that de Mel commanded about 200 minor employees whereas the total strength of National Hospital minor staff was approximately 3,200. The total staff consisted of 11,500 including 1,500 doctors and 3,000 nurses.

Referring to a recent appeal made by Public Security Minister Tiran Alles to police officers not to accept hampers from drug dealers, Dr. Bellana said that he expected law enforcement authorities to restore normalcy at the National Hospital. The police seemed to be hesitant to rein in unruly minor staff against the backdrop of a weary political response, Dr. Bellana said, adding that he briefed Minister Alles of the developing situation.

Dr. Bellana said that workers shouldn’t be allowed to threaten disruption of services. Alleging that some minor staff went to the extent of disrupting surgeries, Dr. Bellana said that the Health Ministry couldn’t turn a blind eye to the developing situation.De Mel claimed Dr. Bellana was practicing what he knows best. “He is causing chaos as he did under previous administrations.”

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Seven million Lankans in need of humanitarian assistance:UNICEF



UNICEF has said seven million people in Sri Lanka are in need of humanitarian assistance due to the economic crisis.In its Sri Lanka Humanitarian Situation Report, issued on 02 February, the UN agency said essential services for children such as health, nutrition, and education have been severely impacted by shortages of medicine, food insecurity, lack of fuel and long power cuts.

In 2022, UNICEF reached over 1.3 million people, including 750,000 children with humanitarian assistance through humanitarian interventions.Over 800,000 people in urban areas have access to safe drinking water, 285,403 children in rural and estate areas were provided with educational materials, and 205,000 adolescents benefited from mental health and psychosocial support services in communities and in schools through UNICEF initiatives, the report said.

UNICEF also piloted a humanitarian cash transfers program which reached 3,010 mothers with young children for three months in the Colombo municipal area in 2022.

This is to be further scaled up to reach 110,000 mothers and caregivers in 2023, the report said.It said that in 2022, UNICEF appealed for 25 million U.S. dollars to provide life-saving humanitarian services to nearly 2.8 million Sri Lankans, including 1.7 million children affected by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka.

UNICEF received USD 34 million, however there is uneven distribution of funding received, it said.

UNICEF said: “Some sectors (Education, WASH and Child Protection) remain significantly underfunded, while others (Nutrition and Social Protection) have received almost triple the asked amount. This situation highlights the need for fresh funding into 2023 particularly for the underfunded sectors. In addition, the generous contribution to the cash-based programming was only made available in the fall.

UNICEF Sri Lanka Country Office launched its Humanitarian Action for Children (HAC) on 10 June 2022 aligned with the UN inter-agency Humanitarian Needs and Priorities (HNP) appeal for Sri Lanka. The HAC has been funded thanks to the generous contributions of bilateral, public, and private donors. UNICEF expresses its sincere gratitude to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, USAID, the Central Emergency Response Fund, UNICEF USA, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (UK) and Global Thematic Humanitarian Funds and many others for their generous contributions, without which UNICEF could not meet the most pressing needs of woman, children, and most vulnerable populations affected by the worst economic crisis the country has experienced since independence. While the HNP expired in December 2022, the need for continued funding to sustain prevailing humanitarian needs post-HNP is critical.”

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Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis passes away



Archbishop Emeritus Oswald Gomis passed away yesterday, while being treated at a private hospital. He was 90. He received his primary education at St. Bendict’s College, Kotahena, and at St. Joseph’s College, Colombo. He was ordained in 1958 and was appointed as Auxiliary Bishop of Colombo, in 1968. He was appointed as the Bishop of Anuradhapura and as Archbishop of Colombo in 2002.

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